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5 NFL Playoff Teams With the Best Chance to Win Super Bowl XVLII

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5 NFL Playoff Teams With the Best Chance to Win Super Bowl XVLII

super bowl
Matthew Emmons - USA Today Sports

The first playoff game hasn’t even kicked off, so we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but NFL fans of the 12 playoff teams already have their eyes on the big prize.

The playoffs are always so much fun because anything can happen. This year, there are so many question marks in young quarterbacks and aging veterans, and even the most complete teams have glaring weaknesses. In the NFC alone, three of the playoff quarterbacks are rookies, four will be playing in their first playoff game, and only one has ever won a playoff game!

As the past two Super Bowl winners have proved, how you play in the regular season doesn’t necessarily mean much - once you’re in the playoffs, it’s a whole new season. Of the 12 teams, we have to figure out who are the contenders and who are the pretenders.

Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is great and should be the MVP, but you can’t win in this league without a quarterback. I don’t believe in the Seattle Seahawks for many reasons, but mostly because I hate them and they wouldn’t even be in the playoffs if it weren’t for the replacement refs. Are the Baltimore Ravens too old? Are the Washington Redskins too young? Is that really Peyton Manning or is it a clone? So many questions!

But it all comes down to one question: who will win Super Bowl XVII? Click through to see the Top 5 teams with the best chance of capturing the Lombardi trophy:

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Green Bay Packers

packer
Jeff Hanisch - USA Today Sports

Why they can win it: The Green Bay Packers have had a bit of an up-and-down-year, but don’t underestimate how hot this team can get. Though they haven’t dominated the scoreboard as they did in 2011, the Packers are still an offensive juggernaut. With a stellar lineup of receivers and running game that is starting to find consistency, Green Bay can score a lot of points in a hurry. In today’s NFL, a team lives and dies by its quarterback, and the Packers have the best in the business in Aaron Rodgers. Number 12 has completed 62.7% percent of his passes for 39 touchdowns, just 8 interceptions, and a 108 passer rating. And this is considered an “off” year for the reigning MVP.

Why they won’t: The defense has been weak all season long. Their inability to get off the field on third down allows opponents to wear them out with long drives, and they have been poor against the run since day one. It all comes down to whether this unit can force turnovers. They have 17 interceptions and five recovered fumbles in 11 wins, compared to just one interception in five losses.

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Atlanta Falcons/Houston Texans

atlanta
Thomas Campbell - USA Today Sports

Okay, this is totally cheating, but I’m grouping these two teams together because they have had similar seasons in starting strong, but showing some flaws late in the season. Both teams look great on paper, but I have reservations about their crunch-time dependability. If I were a betting girl, I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting my money on either of these teams.

Why they can win it: For the Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan has been extraordinary, leading the league with a 68.6% completion rate on 615 passing attempts. The Falcons began their season with eight straight wins and have secured homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

For the Houston Texans, it’s all about defense. Led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate J.J. Watt, who has 20.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, the Houston Texans put opposing quarterbacks on their heels.

Why they won’t: Both teams have finished the season in a disappointing fashion. Atlanta lost two of its final four games and have only played two playoff teams all season long (both, however, were wins). Perhaps its not fair to put such a vague label on the Falcons, but I just don’t trust them in big-game situations. Though their record is certainly laudable, I haven’t seen any really impressive wins over elite teams from Atlanta.

Like Atlanta, Houston did not finish strong, losing three of their last four by an average of 19 points. It’s inexplicable to me how a team that won 11 of its first 12 games failed to secure the number one seed in the AFC. The Texans had a chance to do so in the final game of the season, but ended up dropping to the number 3 seed. Again, I don’t trust this team in do-or-die situations.

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Denver Broncos

broncos
Ron Chenoy - USA Today Sports

Why they can win it: Mr. Peyton Manning - 68.6% completion rate, 37 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, four neck surgeries.

Why they won’t: Their creampuff schedule has to raise concerns. Of their four games against playoff teams, the Denver Broncos lost three. Their 13 wins came against teams like the Oakland Raiders (twice), the San Diego Chargers (twice), the Kansas City Chiefs, the Carolina Panthers, and the Cleveland Browns. That’s not enough for this team to earn my faith.

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New England Patriots

patriots
Greg M. Cooper - USA Today Sports

Why they can win it: Look, all I know is you never count out the New England Patriots. They have Tom Brady throwing the ball and the evil emperor in Bill Belichick scheming. Unlike Atlanta and Houston, the Patriots have improved as the season has progressed. The offense leads the league in total yards, yards per game, and points per game. They can put teams in a hole early on.

Why they won’t: The defense that gives up 373 yards a game is still their problem. It’s nice that they have an offense that can cover for them, but if the Patriots run into a defense that can slow down Brady, the New England defense simply cannot provide the needed help.

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San Francisco 49ers

49ers
Cary Edmondson - USA Today Sports

Why they can win it: Fourth in the league in rushing yards, opponent rushing yards, and opponent passing yards. They can shut teams down. Their defensive line reads like a Pro Bowl roster. Now, they’ve strengthened their biggest weakness - the passing game - by inserting Colin Kaepernick into the lineup.

Why they won’t: They’ve had some blights on the season - a loss and a tie to the St. Louis Rams?? Kaepernick is looking good, but I’m still a little wary of his inexperience. His last three games, he’s averaged just a 55.3% completion rate and has fumbled nine times this season. The San Francisco 49ers' loss to the Seattle Seahawks showed that Kaepernick can get flustered and sloppy when pressured or affected by crowd noise. The 49ers are a fearsome team, but as a run-first offense, they are not designed to score in bunches and can get into trouble if forced to play catch up. Furthermore, former sure-fire kicker David Akers has hit a huge skid and the Niners are currently auditioning new kickers. It’s more than likely that a playoff game will come down to a field goal - will they have a kicker they can trust?